Cyber Monday. We never heard the name until five years ago. If you’re an Internet immigrant like me, you only recently learned that it’s the Black Friday of online retail. As if we needed another day of consumer hype before Christmas. Two companies are even extending it into “Cyber Week.”
Online sales this past Monday set a nationwide record: a 19.4 percent increase over last year. While one research firm projects a 4.5 percent increase in holiday retail sales in general, others predict an 11 percent increase in online sales. If sales “history” means much, it may happen. This week some online retailers already reported as much as a 51 percent gain over Cyber Monday 2009.
On Monday it filled 25 orders with a total of 115 items. Such an inventory turnover could make a major outlet despair, but Sr. Patricia Cora Shaules, the Web store manager, is enthusiastic. “Our sales are increasing, our customer base is increasing, and on the average we’re meeting our projections,” she reports. “The important thing is that we’re reaching people we couldn’t reach otherwise and we’re reaching them where they are.”
True. In fact, since September 2009 when it was launched, PBM Web has sent out almost 14,000 books, CDs, and DVDs in English and Spanish to people in all fifty states. In addition to filling orders, the store is often a conduit for other services that support the Church’s missionary efforts. Just two weeks ago, a priest in Thailand inquired about having a PBM title translated into Standard Thai. The store was able to help him begin the process. A Pauline Web presence in the “neighborhood” enables us to minister more effectively to those who shop PBM online. Getting to know the “neighbors” is an ongoing project, as the demographic continues to diversify.
Even though she’s optimistic about an effective online outreach, Sr. Patricia keeps an eye trained on the numbers. She changes highlighted products regularly and collaborates with PBM’s digital publishing, not only to make more of a splash, but to build and sustain the tide.
An entire Web site upgrade, scheduled for 2011, will give the store a facelift. This initiative, more than two years in the making, will enable both services to be even more user-friendly. Products will soon be inserted in more than one category, and whenever a title is highlighted, three other related titles will appear below it. Kinks in the credit card payment process have already been ironed out, and the system will be able to handle larger orders, growing the current capacity to fill requests for multiple copies of products.
For Sr. Patricia, the new Web site will be about both pre-evangelization and direct evangelization. “We’ll be accompanying people throughout their spiritual odyssey, including people who have not grown up with the faith.”
It has been difficult to budget for this, and the venture promises to be costly. For now, prayers are needed. As we have more details, we’ll keep you informed…and invite you to be part of it!